Editor: Shannon Cottongame
May 5, 2022
Hunting-related accidents in Texas are at an all-time low since Hunter Education became mandatory in 1988, according to the 2021 Texas Hunting Accident Report released by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).
Of more than 49,000 certifications in 2021, Texas experienced only one fatality and 11 accidents statewide, according to the report.
“In 2021, three quarters of the incidents were what we call ‘swinging on game outside of a safe zone of fire,’” said Steve Hall, the Hunter Education Coordinator for TPWD. “This is the most common mishap in Texas besides careless handling in and around vehicles. The cardinal rule of hunting and shooting safety is keeping the muzzle of a firearm always pointed in a safe direction.”
This marks a significant decrease since 1988, when more than 18,000 Texans received their Hunter Education certification but reported 12 fatalities and 70 accidents throughout the state. As more Texans have taken to the field and obtained their Hunter Education certification, these numbers have greatly improved.
Even prior to Hunter Education becoming mandatory in 1988, TPWD has offered hunter education courses since 1972, certifying nearly 1.5 million students. Today, Hunter Education is required for every hunter in Texas (including out-of-state hunters) born on or after Sept. 2, 1971. The minimum age for certification is nine years of age and certification is good for life.
There are two course options for anyone who needs to take Hunter Education. The basic classroom course includes six hours of instruction plus skill exercises, a review and then a final exam. These types of courses are most often held in schools or in an indoor venue. The online course, combined with a field course, has two parts: a free online course that should be completed first, and then the field portion that typically takes a minimum of four hours to complete. The field course contains a presentation on ethical and responsible hunting, participation in a hunting skills trail, a live-fire exercise, a review of regulations and a final exam.
There is also an online-only course that is restricted to anyone 17 years of age or older. Online coursework varies from two to four hours depending on pre-knowledge, age, reading level and other factors.
Hall offers other tips that will help ensure a safe experience for hunters whether they’re at their home, in transit to their hunting spot or spending time in the field.
- Unload all firearms when not in use, especially in the home, in transport and in the field until ready to shoot.
- Keep your fingers outside of the trigger guard until ready to take a shot.
- Waterfowl hunters should wear protective clothing, waders and approved life jackets while in boats or around water, especially in winter months. Drowning ranks as the number one hunting incident for these hunters.
- For dove, quail and pheasant hunters, the number one incident is swinging on game outside a safe zone of fire. Communicate and stick to your safe zone of fire and never shoot towards another hunter, buildings or structures, or domestic animals such as cows.
- Be sure of your target – what is in front of and behind the target.
- Wear blaze orange to be seen by other hunters.
Hunters must have proof of Hunter Education certification on their person while in the field. Hunters have access to their Texas proof of Hunter Education in the free Outdoor Annual mobile app for iOS and Android.
Learn more about Hunter Education, how to sign up for a course and find resources for students on the TPWD website at tpwd.texas.gov.